Emerson Bennett.

Forest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier online

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" ' Quick ! quick !' cried I : ' the dead is alive ! the dead
is alive !'

" Several of the students, sleeping in adjoining rooms,


came hurrying to mine, thinking I had gone mad with
terror, as some of them had heard my voice before, and all
knew to what a fearful ordeal I had been subjected.

" 'Poor fellow !' exclaimed^ one in a tone of sympathy ;
'I predicted this.'

" ' It is too bad !' said another ; ' it was too much for
his nervous system !'

" ' I am not mad,' returned I, comprehending their
suspicions ; ' but the corpse is alive ! hasten and see !'

" They hurried into the room, one after another ; and
the foremost, stooping down to what he supposed was a
corpse, put his hand upon it, and instantly exclaimed :

" Quick ! a light and some brandy ! She lives ! she
lives !'

" All now was bustle, confusion and excitement one
proposing one thing, and another something else, and all
speaking together. They placed her on the bed, and gave
her some brandy, when she again revived. I ran for a
physician, (one of the faculty,) who came and tended upon
her through the night, and by sunrise the next morning she
was reported to be in a fair way for recovery.

" Now what do you think of my story so far ?" queried
the Doctor, with a quiet smile.

" Very remarkable I" I replied ; " very remarkable,
indeed ! But tell me, did the girl finally recover ?"



" She did ; and turned out to be a most beautiful crea-
ture, and only sweet seventeen."

"And I suppose she blessed the resurrectionists all the
rest of her life !" I rejoined, with a laugh.

" She certainly held one of them in kind remembrance,"
returned the Doctor, with a sigh.

" What became of her, Doctor ?"

" What should have become of her, according to the well-
known rules of poetic justice of all you novel-writers ?"
returned my friend, with a peculiar smile.

" Why," said I, laughing, " she should have turned out
an heiress, and married you."

"And that is exactly what she did!" rejoined the

" Good heavens ! You are jesting !"

"No, my friend, no," replied the Doctor, in a faltering
voice : " that night of horror only preceded the dawn of my
happiness ; for that girl sweet, lovely Helen Leroy in
time became my wife, and the mother of my two boys.
She sleeps now in death, beneath the cold, cold sod," added
the Doctor, in a tremulous tone, and brushing a tear from
his eye : " and no human resurrectionists shall ever raise
her to life again !"

AT Independence, Missouri that grand rendezvous for
traders, trappers, travelers, emigrants, Indians, and, in
short, for all going to, or returning from, the Far West
I once met an old mountaineer by the name of Glass
John Glass though he looked as little like glass as any
substance I can think of. In fact, John clearly showed, in
his weather-beaten, scar-disfigured face, that his had been
"a hard road to travel." Indeed, on second thought, I
hardly know as I am justified in saying that John Glass
had any face at all ; but he had a head, and the front part
of that head much resembled one side of an overgrown,
badly-whitewashed gourd a portion of the nose and
original skin having been removed, leaving in place a kind
of cicatrized surface, which a great amount of weather, and
a total abstinence of soap and water, had turned to a color
that I find comparable with nothing except the aforesaid

I was not at that time acquainted with John personally ;

but being somewhat fascinated by his appearance, I



begged an introduction, which was readily accorded by
one having the honor of some familiarity with this nonde-
script specimen of the wilderness.

"I say, old hoss, hyer's a settlement chap as wants to
know you a few," were the words which brought the
attention of John Glass fully upon myself, and was my
only form of presentation to the scarified mountaineer.

"Wall, stranger, you kin know me a heap, ef you're
civil," was the reply of my new acquaintance, spoken in a
tone that sounded not unlike the gurgling of water from a
jug. " Chaw, hoss ?" he added, inquiringly, having, like
many another individual I wot of, an eye to the profits
which might accrue from my acquaintance.

I instantly took the hint, and a plug of tobacco from
my pocket, and handing the latter to my new friend, I
observed that he had better keep the whole of it, as I had
a sufficiency left.

" Hurraw !" cried the old trapper " You're a trump,
you ar, and I'd play you agin any amount of dandified
jimcracks I ever seed. You're a hoss as has bottom, or
else I'm a wolf hurraw !"

I saw I had made a good impression on my outre friend
of the wilderness ; and I naturally argued, that if a plug
of tobacco could do that much, a little whiskey would do
more. So, after a few exchanges of civilities, in which I
endeavored to compliment John as much as he had


me, I mildly suggested that we might as well take a

" Hurraw !" he cried, in his broadly accented dialect ;
"you're one on 'em, stranger! and old peeled Jack is one
as likes to know you. Drink ? In course I will and ef
you kin jest find the fellow as says John Glass ever was
knowed to refuse to drink when ax'd, you'll see a fight."

Accordingly, we adjourned to one of that kind of insti-
tutions in which these rough borderers most do congre-
gate ; and having called together a few of JofiVs friends,
we chartered a corner of the shanty for that especial
occasion. The whiskey having been brought forward, in
due proportion to the number and quality of the guests,
who at once paid their respects to it, pipes were next in
order ; and each man having loaded, prepared to fire and
did fire and such a volume of smoke I never before
beheld except at the discharge of a regular battery.

My sole object in this operation was to hear from the
lips of John Glass himself how it had happened 'that his
figure head had become so seriously damaged; and so,
seizing the first favorable opportunity, I broached the
subject in a quiet way.

"Wall, stranger," said John, "that was one o' the
scrapes. Hey, Bill," he added, turning to one of his com-
panions, " you remember that thar, I reckon ?"

"Wall, I does, boss," returned the other; "and ef I


didn't think you war dead that time, may I never see the
Kocky agin 1"

"Yes, Bill," pursued Glass, "you thought as how I war
dead ; and it's like you wern't glad to find it different, for
you'd got my hoss and gun all snug enough. But you see,
when John Glass goes under, thar's gwine to be an 'arth-
quake ; and thar warn't nary 'arthquake then. Stranger,"
he added, filling his glass and turning to me, " I'll just tell
you how it war, for you're right decent for a settlement
feller, and decency ought to be encouraged. You see,
stranger, it war a good many years ago I don't exactly
remember how many that me and a party war gwine out
to the mountains. Wall, we'd fixed up for a reg'lar
trapping expedition, and had our bosses and mules, and all
the rest o' our kit along, for a reg'lar three months' hunt.
We got over onto the Black Hills without any accident,
which war some'at to talk about for us, kase we didn't
often go fur without them things. I say we got over onto
the Black Hills, and pitched our camp in one o' the
purtiest places I ever seed, whar we kind o' spread our-
selves to make beaver come. Me and Bill, here the old
boss paired off, kind o' partner like, and did business in
our own way, and that thar way war some.

" One day, as we war off that thar way together, setting
our traps along a stream whar the beaver rayther seemed
to like the fun for they allers kirn smelling round and


looking pleased and curious we got kind o' tangled up
in a thicket o' wild cherry, which growed along the stream.
I war pushing along a leetle ahead o' Bill, when all at
once't, as I kim to a kind o' opening, I seed a big grizzly,
as quiet as a kitten, turning up the arth with his nose for
the roots as laid below.

" ' Hurra w, Bill 1' says I, 'hyer's fun, and thar's meat.'

" ' What's the muss, Jack V says Bill, hurrying up to me.

" I showed him the b'ar about twenty yards off, and we
agreed as how we'd draw his blood.

"Now, stranger," continued the old trapper, turning to
me, "them thar grizzlys is some."

" In a bear fight ?" I quietly suggested.

" Exactly haw ! haw ! haw !" laughed the mountaineer.
" They're some in a b'ar fight just so ; and you're some
punks, any whar. Wall, as I was a saying, we fetched our
rifles to an aim, and both spoke together. We both hit
old grizzly plum centre : but them is critters as don't mind
hitting, and our shots didn't seem to do no more nor jest
kind o' rile up his dander. He kind o' started up and
looked round, as savage as Old Nick; and then, seeing
our smoke curling up from the thicket, he know'd thar
was some'at for him thar, and broke for us like a streak o'
greased lightning.

"' Hurra w, Bill!' siiys I; 'we're in for't now. We'll
be made meat on, sure as shooting.'


" ' Wall, we will, old boss,' says Bill, ' onless our legs is
longer nor the b'ars.'

" ' It's a run now, any way,' says I, as we both on us
made a break through the thicket.

"Bill was behind me afore, but he was ahead o' me
now ; and ef he didn't do some tall walking then, I never
seed snakes. Hey, Bill ?"

"Wall, I did, Jack," grinned Bill, who was himself
nearly as pretty a specimen of the wilderness as the

." We both on us tore through the bushes like mad,"
resumed the old mountaineer ; " but they was awful thick
together, I tell you, and we didn't get along not nigh so fast
as I has afore now, tumbling down hill ; and we didn't git
along not nigh so fast as the cussed old b'ar, who kim
plunging arter us like a mad bull, gaining on us at every
jump. Maybe as how I didn't swear some at them thar
old bushes, which stuck into me at every leap, and kind o'
kept me from gitting any war, with old grizzly puffing up
close behind.

" At last we got to t'other side o' the thicket, whar thar
was a patch o' prairie, and a big steep bluff on t'other side
on't, about a hundred yards off.

" ' Hurraw, Bill !' says I ; * it's bluff or die ; for old
grizzly has got kautankerous ; and he ain't so fur behind


but what he mout hear us holler:- ' Leg it, Bill 1' says I ;
' let your pegs do their duty. '

"And Bill, here, he did leg it, for he'd got the
legs as could leg it; and I didn't keep a great ways
behind. But the old varmint, he gained on us all through
the bushes ; and when I struck that thar prairie, I hadn't
more'n twenty feet the start o' him. I'd hev cleared
old Bruin, though, easy enough ; but jest as I got half
way to the bluff, I struck my infernal foot agin a stone,
and kim- down headlong. I got up agin right sudden ;
but it war too late for running now ; for jest as I got on
my feet, the old scamp stood straight up alongside o' me,
and reached out his paws for a hug, like some o' the old
Frenchmen I've seed out thar. I know'd old grizzly's hug
warn't for any good, though ; but seeing as thar warn't no
help for't, I kind o' made up my mind to it, and gin him
the contents o' the only pistol I had, at the same time
yelling to Bill to load up and settle him.

" I'd jest got the words out, when old grizzly got his
paws onto me, and, with one infernal rake downwards,
tore off skin enough for a leather apron. I drawed my
knife, said some'at o' prayers, and pitched into him with
all my might ; and we went rolling over and over on the
grass, sometimes the b'ar topmost, and sometimes me.

" That thar, boys, is purty much all I know about the

fight," pursued Glass; "but some time next day I opened



my peepers agin, wiped off the blood, and found I war the
wust-looking human you ever seed. My old scalp hung
clean over my face the skin o' my face, and the most o'
this here nose, war spread out all around me ; I'd been
dug into clean down to the ribs, which looked as ef they'd
been peeled ; and more'n all that, some thieving scamp
(Bill, here, kin tell you who that war) had stripped off
the most o' my clothing, and tuk my pistol, and rifle, and
every thing away."

"Yes," said Bill, " I'll jest tell you how it war,. boys I
jest thought as how Glass war dead, and I run down to
camp and told 'em so, and old Sublette told me and Rube
to go back and bury him. We went back, and tuk his
things ; but concluding thar warn't no use o' settling him
into the turf, we put back and told the boys as how we'd
done it; but we hadn't, and Jack warn't dead, he

"No, sir-ee !" chimed in Glass "nor I didn't want to
die, nuther. Wall, I kind o' looked around like, and seed
as how old grizzly had got rubbed out, and that thar was
some satisfaction, anyhow."

Here Glass took still another glass, smacked his lips,
and continued.

" Ef I war to tell you all that happened arter that, I'd
keep you here till morning so I won't. The short on't
is, I jest tore up my shirt, and did up my wounds as well


as I could ; and then lay round thar, feeding on old grizzly
for a good many days, till I got strength to crawl away.
The boys, I reckoned, had changed their camp, and so I
sot out for a fort as I knowed was about ninety miles off ;
and I tell you what it is, that thar war one o' the wust
tramps as ever this hyer old beaver seed ; for I war all cut
up, almost skinned, and had to feed on roots and berries
all the way.

"At last I got to the fort, and some jimcrack of a
doctor sot to work on me ; and, stranger, 1 kim out as
good as new, as you kin see for yourself. I managed to.
git another hoss, and then started for another fort, whar I
kuowed the boys would be coming in to winter. We both
got thar about the same time ; and a skeerder-looking set
o' white niggers nor them war, when they seed me, as they
knowed war dead and buried, coming up astraddle o' that
thar old hoss, this hyer child never put his eyes on.

" ' Hurraw, Bill !' says I, as I seed him quaking, and
trying to git out o' sight for the scamp knowed as he war
guilty, and I guessed it ' I'll jest kind o' trouble* you for
that thar hoss, and gun, and the rest o' my fixings. >

" Bill handed 'em over, and I tuk my place amongst the
boys, ready for the next thing as niought turn up.

"Thar, stranger," concluded the old mountaineer, "you
knows now why I looks so purty ; and so now let's liquor

agin, afore we spile."


I subsequently ascertained that this story of John Glass
was true in every particular ; and I give it as a specimen
of what human nature and especially human nature as
found in the wilderness of the Far West can endure and

I ONCE had a friend I say had, for he is dead now,
poor fellow by the name of Lance Walters, who pos-
sessed the most remarkable nerve of any one I ever saw.
Nothing seemed to alarm him nothing could frighten
him. I have seen him, when the pestilential scourge was
taking down nearly every other individual, as calm, col-
lected, and apparently as cheerful as one at a wedding
feast. I have seen him, when the lightning flashed with
blinding vividness, and the thunder was crashing with a
stunning power, sit coolly and collectedly by a window,
quietly reading, apparently without being aware that any
thing unusual was going on around him. When the
cholera was here, in 1832, it gave him no uneasiness.
When that wise savant of Europe startled the world with
the prediction that all sublunary things were about to be
brought to a close by an erratic comet, my friend laughed.
When, a 'few years subsequently, all the stars of Heaven
seemed shooting from their spheres and falling in one fi.esy

shower, and hundreds were quaking with terror, believing
23* (269)


the last day had come, Lance was one who stood looking
at the phenomenon, and thought it a very pleasant and
beautiful sight. When the day drew near which that soi
disant prophet, Father Miller, had so rampantly preached
as the end of time, and thousands of frightened fanatics
were preparing to put on their ascension robes, for a
glorious, saintly, serial flight, Walters treated his friends
to an essay on the philosophy of fools. In short, nothing
disturbed him ; he had an easy digestion, and slept
soundly; and he could at any time before meals or
afterward, morning, noon, or night, or in the middle of
the night balance a glass full of wine on a single finger,
and neither spill a drop of the liquid nor show a tremor
of his own nerves. He had a good eye, and was a dead
shot ; and if he ever failed to put a ball in the bull's-eye
at a hundred yards, without rest, the fault was in the rifle
and not in him.

I think I have said enough to show that Lance Walters
was a man of remarkable nerve ; and a man of remarkable
nerve, let me observe, is a man remarkable for never know-
ing what it is to fear for real fear is something which
always springs from a disturbed condition of the nervous
system. Lance had traveled a good deal ; and, in the
course of his career, had met with a number of startling
adventures. He had been in Texas in his earlier days,
and had seen men coolly shot down as dogs ; he had seen


them fight with knives, and both fall in the contest,
covered with ghastly wounds ; he had more than once had
a loaded pistol presented at his breast, and fully believed
that the next moment would be his last ; and yet in all
these trials of nerve, his features had scarcely paled, his
eye had never quailed, and not a quiver of a single muscle
had ever been perceived.

The bravest, however, have their weak points, and
Lance Walters had his, as my story, or perhaps I should
rather say his story, will show.

" Were you ever afraid ?" I once said to him, as we sat
conversing upon kindred subjects.

"Once," he replied, "never but once I never knew
what fear was but once."

"And pray," said I, "on what particular occasion was
that ?"

"A particular occasion, indeed !" he rejoined, as he lit
a fresh Havana and threw himself back in his easy chair,
while the cloud of smoke which soon enveloped him
seemed to indicate that even the recollection brought with
it some little nervous excitement. "Do you know," he
pursued, " I was never a believer in the supernatural !"

" You were never a believer in any thing, except a kind
of iron immobility, which you were pleased to term
courage," I replied.

" I say, my friend, I never was a believer in the super-


natural up to a certain period ; I do not say I am a be-
liever in it now; but this much I shall say, that there are
some things I have seen, belonging either to Heaven or
earth, or both, which far surpass my comprehension, and
seem unexplainable by any known law. "

"Well, go on," said I, with interest, "and give me the
particulars of that particular occasion, when for once, and
only once in his life, Lance Walters was scared."

" Well, scared is a term 1 am not partial to," smiled my
friend ; " but no matter. To begin, then, you must know
I was once traveling through the interior of Alabama ; and
being one day belated in reaching my destination, I con-
cluded to ask a night's entertainment of a planter, whose
dwelling loomed up invitingly on my way. I rode up to
the door, and found the proprietor himself quietly sitting
on the piazza, indulging in the luxury of what, had I been
among the Choctaws, the original proprietors of the soil, I
should unhesitatingly have pronounced a calumet of peace.
Having passed the usual salutations of the day, and replied
to his inquiry, that I was neither a pedlar nor a relation to
one, I quietly made the proposition of passing the night
beneath his roof. He gave a cordial assent, arjd some
half a dozen negroes very speedily disposed of my horse
and valise. I next proceeded to make myself agreeable to
mine host a hale, hearty man of fifty, of a pleasant and
sociable turn of mind and soon we were in full blast,


chatting away on all sorts of matters pertaining to all
parts of the country east, west, north and south.

" A summons to supper interrupted our conversation ;
and forthwith mine host conducted me to a bountifully-
supplied table, where I flatter myself I did ample justice
to any quantity of broiled chicken, bacon, eggs, etc.
After supper we took a smoke ; and the feelings of my
Southern entertainer having by this time risen to fever
heat in favor of his Northern guest, he proposed that we
should silently indulge in a stimulating distillation called
peach-brandy. I assented ; and I think I am justified in
adding, that neither of us drank more than a quart. One
thing is pretty certain, however ; in the exact ratio that
the liquor went down, our spirits and fancies went up;
and from beginning with the practical, we glided into
the poetical, advanced to the terrible, and wound up with
the marvelous ; that is to say, from talking of crops and
cattle, we proceeded to quote Shakspeare and Byron,
pushed on to duels and street encounters, and ended with
ghost stories. I did not believe in the last not even with
the assistance of the brandy but my Southern friend did.
I could tell as marvelous tales as he ; but then, unlike him,
I could not swear to them; and I came near getting
myself into trouble by doubting that he believed all he
said he did.


"'So you are incredulous?' he queried, looking me
steadily in the eye.

"'Most assuredly, sir,' I replied. 'What! talk of
ghosts, and believe in them ? Upon my soul, that is a
little too much for a man that has traveled! I have
always heard of these things as being at a distance, or else
as having happened in some demolished structure, and so
I have pretty much settled it in my own mind that their
ghostships are always a great way off from an enterprising
mortal, or else have long since gone quietly and snugly to

" ' "Would you like to see a ghost ?' he inquired.

" ' If it is convenient,' said I.

" ' Come ! what do you say to my own house, here,
being haunted ?'

"'I should like to hear what you say to it first,' re-
turned I.

" ' Well, sir, I say then, that one room is nightly visited
with something supernatural.'

" ' I am very happy to hear it,' I rejoined ; ' and if that
room is to let, I should like to engage it, for one night at

"'But are you really serious,' he inquired, 'in wishing
to lodge in a haunted room ?'

"'Serious as a judge, if not as sober as a priest/
laughed I.


" ' Well, then, young man, I will try your mettle ; you
shall have the room, for one night at least that is, if I
can get my darkies into it long enough to attend to the
sleeping arrangements.'

'"Do you really pretend to say,' pursued I, somewhat
quizzingly, ' that there is a ghostly performance there every
night V

" ' Well, I will let you report in the morning whether
there is one there this night or not.'

" ' But it must really be ghostly,' said I, ' for any human
performer will be likely to get what he will not want to

" ' Use your weapons in any way you please, he re-
joined ; ' only be careful and not damage my house and
furniture more than is necessary.'

"After some further conversation, during which I
puzzled myself not a little to ascertain whether my host
was really in earnest or not, he ordered his head female
domestic to see that the bed in the haunted room was
in proper condition, and the furniture well dusted. I
watched her, as he gave these directions, thinking to
detect something like a covert smile ; but so far from it, I
even fancied that the wench turned a shade lighter ; and
her exclamation of, ' Oh, Marse John ! ef de gen'lman's
gwine to sleep dar, de Lord help him !' seemed to be
spoken with something like horror. Could it be possible


there was anything in it ? Were they indeed in earnest ?
Was there such a thing as a real ghost out of Shakspeare ?
Pooh ! pshaw ! nonsense 1

"All things must come to an end, and so did our
smoking, talking, and drinking. At last I rose, with my
nerves less steady than usual ; and my host himself con-
ducted me to my supernatural chamber, through a row of
rolling eyes and ebony faces, which were turned upon me
with the expression of beings who believed I had sold
myself to the Evil One, and was about to hand him over
his bargain.

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Online LibraryEmerson BennettForest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier → online text (page 14 of 22)